Ducks and Geese, Pacific Northwest
Ducks and Geese are among the most diverse and fascinating creatures there is. They inhabit every continent except Antarctica. There are so many of these birds here on our coast that it is simply amazing. They have such a variety in shape, color and size. BC has many types of ducks and geese that never leave our shores, they stay year round.
Ducks, geese, and swans can be found wherever there’s water, from the tropics right up to the arctic north, when I worked in the arctic, i was always fascinated by how many types of waterfowl nest there.
The pacific flyway runs along our coast and the spring and fall migrations are just wonderful to observe. Migration of these birds is largely a learned behavior passed down from generation to generation. Ducks and geese navigate the way that other birds do, by using solar and celestial compasses along with an awareness of the earths magnetic fields.
In most other bird species, adults and juveniles migrate separately. Ducks and geese migrate in family groups for the southbound flight. This is when the young ones learn the path, the good stopover sites along with the good wintering grounds. Ducks tend to separate over the winter and head north by forming new groups. The hens have a strong need to return to their birthplace. Males do not and will simply follow the hens, as they mate with new hens each season, this will take them to a different site every year.
The geese, on the other hand, take several years to mature and quite often the family remains together for several migrations. Males pick their mates on the wintering grounds and usually mate for life.
The population of some geese is increasing at a very fast rate and causing problems on the nesting grounds. Snow geese are an example of this. An estimated 6 million birds now nest in Hudson Bay, they have become the most populated bird in the north. However other waterfowl populations are decreasing due to the disappearing wetlands and other migratory habitat and it is up to us to protect and increase remaining habitats for all migratory species.
These birds are incredible to observe and to see huge flocks heading north is a wonderful sight, all you need is a pair of field glasses, a camera and a notebook to record your sightings, a good pair of boots and a warm jacket and you’re on your way to seeing the wonders of the migrating birds. But be careful, you might become addicted, i have.